Saturday, November 29, 2014

29 in 29 - a completed birthday bucket list

Happy Birthday to Me,
Happy Birthday to Me,
Happy Birthday to Me-eee,
Happy Birthday to me!

Here goes. On the day I turn 30, I am looking back at the list I created exactly one year ago and checking progress to see just how well I did.

I will go ahead and tell you I didn't accomplish everything I set out to do, but I had a crazy good time doing what I did. It was a year of blessings and fun and memory making and brightening days and living with intention.

As I revisited this list throughout the past year, I crossed out and added links and/or pictures to anything I checked off, italicized anything in progress, and left undone those not yet addressed.

This is the original post from November 29...the day I turned 29.
In honor of my twenty-ninth birthday, my very last year as a twenty-something, before hitting the big 3-0, I am making a birthday bucket list.
A list of things I want to accomplish in what God promises to be a year full of even more than I could ever ask or imagine.
So, why not?

One. Spend an entire weekend free of social media - no blogging, no Facebook, no Instagram, no Twitter, no messaging, not even any Googling. Just me and my boys. We live in a world that says, "If you don't _______ (fill in the blank - tweet about it, take a picture of it, post about it), then it never happened." Well, shucks. I'm proving that way wrong.

So freeing. It's not something I could do often. I like the feeling of being connected, but the feeling of being fully present with my boys is a gazillion times better.
Two. Take off a day of work to volunteer at Baker's school. Here's to shucking my teacher badge for a whole day and wearing my mommy hat. Yippee skippy.
I even convinced Brian to join the fun! We rendezvoused for a fun breakfast date and then spent a fabulous Friday being Baker's mommy and daddy. We even got to serve at the Gene Stalling's golf tournament, and took advantage of a priceless photo op. We had so much fun we're already planning this in the upcoming year....when we're thirty. Womp. Womp. Womp.
Three. Buy a stranger's lunch.
 It was actually dinner. See here. While this one is technically accomplished, I will strive to do this over and over. Because it is way fun!
Four. Watch a sunrise. Watch a sunset.
For once, I let the snooze button sleep in. Totally worth it. Totally.
Five. Read a just for fun book. Read a devotional. Read a how-to book.

Love Does by Bob Goff
A Simple Act of Gratitude by John Kralik
Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World by Joanna Weaver
The Pioneer Woman Cooks - Recipes from an Accidental Country Girl by Ree Drummond
For others, see my Summer Reading List
 Six. Share the gospel with twelve people. Ten seems too predictable, thirteen seems way scary.
Seven. Send an I'm thinking about you happy note to at least one person every week.

This is one of my favorite parts of each week - sitting down with my favorite pen and stationary, fancy address stamp, and sending happy thoughts to those I hold most dear.
Eight. Go on a fancy date with my husband once a month. Here's to high heels, and bright lipstick, and big hair, and dazzling, and wooing, and falling all over in love.

I love this one being ongoing. I think we'll promise to do this once a month for all the months of the rest of our forever 

We had our last of these (for this year at least) when we went to Nashville to celebrate our birthday weekend.

I mean, just look at him, who wouldn't want to date him for the rest of their forever?

 Nine. Do at least five spontaneous somethings - plan a vacation and leave in the same hour, eat something new off the menu at my favorite restaurant, make an unplanned purchase.

This is hard for a planner. Super duper hard.
Trip to Chattanooga. We transferred Baker from his crib to the car and hit the road for a fun-filled day trip!

A date with my biggest love on a school night. Talk about living on the edge!
Does an unplanned hospital vacation count?
This. A daddy and his boy and a favorite fishing hole. I am realizing that some of life's most precious moments are the ones I can't perfectly orchestrate.
Four words. Impromptu. Ice. Cream. Date.


Ten. Train for and run a race.

I bought a new pair of tennis shoes and running socks. They look really cute with my leggings. That's all I know for now. Baby steps, y'all.

Does a nine month race to the delivery room count? Consider this my training phase.
Eleven. Adopt a child from World Vision. I have wanted to do this since Baker was born. While I think it would be perfectly fine to choose any child, I want a boy or girl who shares Baker's birthday. Each year, as we plan his party, we will also help this new friend celebrate the day of his or her birth. Birthdays are special, and should be celebrated as such.

We haven't done this yet,;our hearts have been called to serving elsewhere at this point. But, I am still very open to this if the Lord opens this door for us.
Twelve. Get something waxed. Never have I ever, ever had any part of my body waxed. And as an almost thirty year old, I think it's a rite of passage.
"L'7 Weenie!
Yeah, yeah, Oscar Meyer even, footlong, dodger dog, a weenie!"
Sandlot, anyone?
Thirteen. Learn how to change a flat tire. Learn something new. Or at least how to pop my hood. Being married to a Mr. Fix It, I need to know none of these things. I think, as a woman of age, I should be educated.
This summer, I assembled a new desk, with tools and without my husband. And it functions. Perfectly. Don't miss those key details. And, for the record, I now know how to pop my hood. Boom. Maybe that will make oil changes slightly less embarrassing.
Forget the rest. As an almost thirty year old, I will delegate the rest. Smart women "of age" know their limits, and know when to sit back and let someone else do the dirty work.
Fourteen. Go to an Alabama football game outside of Bryant Denny Stadium. I have been to my fair share of home games, but it's high time I visit some of these non-championship winning SEC stadiums. Roll Tide, y'all.

Doesn't look like this one is happening this year. Big time bummer!
I was given birthday tickets to the Iron Bowl this year and cannot wait to celebrate in Bryant Denny!
Fifteen. Plant a garden with Baker. Grow fruits and vegetables. Eat them, cook with them, share them. Enjoy this. The dirt digging, and fingernail cleaning, and seed planting, and soil watering, and plant sprouting amazing process of things growing from the ground.
Blueberry growing, Blueberry picking. Blueberry eating. That, my friends, is how it's done.
Sixteen. Go to a movie. Buy a huge drink and a big bucket of popcorn. With lots of butter and zero regrets.
Seventeen. Kiss my husband in four different states.

Tennessee. Boom.
Florida. Bow Chicka Wow Wow Chicka Wow Wow
Alabama. Duh.
Mississippi. Check.

I'm okay with being an overachiever here. You know, for the purposes of this bucket list.

Eighteen. Go to the beach. Build sandcastles, keep Baker up way past his bedtime to experience the thrill of hunting crabs by flashlight, go on a dolphin cruise, take cheesy beach pictures in coordinating outfits, get airbrushed t-shirts made to commemorate the event.

Nineteen. Go to a concert. Preferably one that involves the outdoors and cowboy boots.
Twenty. Sit down in chair at the salon, sans pictures, sans specific instructions with pointing and measuring, and all the details of how I want my hair cut and styled, and say only, "Go."

Eeeekkk. That one took a lot out of me.

I'm not a hair color virgin anymore!

Twenty-one. Buy a fancy bottle of wine. No fancy occasion required.

Twenty-two. Do a service project with Brian and Baker.

We did this with our Bible Study class. It was amazing seeing families working together to love and serve our community through acts of kindness.

Twenty-three. Take a photography class.

Twenty-four. Join the Be the Match registry.

Twenty-five. Go on a girl's trip. Only friends. No children. No husbands. Tons of belly-aching laughter, inside joke sharing, memory making fun.

The best. No pictures allowed. What happens on a girl's trip stays on a girl's trip.

Twenty-six. Teach Baker the simple joy of cooking. Pancake batter head to toe, chocolate chips strewn haphazardly across the counter, syrup sticking to every surface. Yes, I think we will start with chocolate chip pancakes.

Twenty-seven. Test drive an impractical car. I envision something with only two doors, no top, great speakers, faster than law allows, music blaring.

Does a rental car count? I had a wreck and had to trade vehicles for over a month.

Twenty-eight. Go to an amusement park. Ride roller coasters, eat funnel cakes, buy the expensive souvenir pictures.

No amusement park, but we had a blast taking Baker to the Zoo!

Twenty-nine. Live intentionally. Love each day. Cherish those most dear. Be purposeful. Spread joy. Smell flowers. Read books. Hand write notes. Sing loudly. Skip in the street. Smile. Play board games. Walk barefooted in wet grass. Swing. Make homemade bread. Pick pecans.

I want this to be my purpose every single day. I am working on living a life with less clutter and more meaning.

Here's to a year of life loving, double dare taking, memory making, dreams coming true.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Fifteen Weeks

What I’m eating: Sour Patch Kids and plain ole Haribo gummi bears are pretty much the yummiest thing to ever pass through my lips, I have decided Chick fil A lemonade is the bomb dot com, and I could eat a McDonald’s cheeseburger happy meal with extra pickles every single night. I’m certain the scales are going to scream when I step on them at the doctor next week.

Big Brother Baker: Every morning Baker says good morning to his baby. He pats my tummy and pulls up my shirt to kiss him or her hello. This is only a problem when he feels the need to express this love in public.

Sleep: The best thing since sliced bread maternity pants. I am lasting a little later at night, but as soon as my head hits the pillow, I am a log-sawing goner.

Maternity Clothes: I am wearing maternity pants and leggings. Tops are still too big, for today at least.

Size of Baby: A navel orange; although I feel like I have an entire mesh bag of navel oranges camped out in there.

Baby Names: We still don’t have a name; however we do have a book with 25,000 baby names and family trees dating back generations. Sometimes too many choices is not a good thing.

Gender: My gut says another precious baby BOY; however, we will know for certain right before Christmas.

What I Miss: Not a thing!

Best Moment of the Week: There were too many to choose just one. Breaking away to Nashville for a birthday celebration was the perfect escape for our family and an excuse for a fancy date with my husband. Thanksgiving and all of its delicious glory. Praise all things good and holy for turkey and dressing and sweet potato casserole and homemade cranberry sauce and chocolate pecan pie. Holy smokes, Thanksgiving is a pregnant girl’s favorite day of the year. And lastly, a friend let me borrow her Doppler. I love listening to Baby Bell's sweet beats every morning and every night. Lastly, tomorrow I turn the big 3-0!! It's a big birth week celebration around here!

Happy Black Friday, Friends! I hope it’s full of leftover turkey and fabulous doorbusting deals!

Monday, November 24, 2014

A Nashville Birthday Party

Brian and I both celebrate November birthdays. His is November 20 and mine is November 29. This year we both turn the big 3-0. Instead of gifts, we decided on a birthday getaway.
It was perfect!
Since we both had to be back at work on Monday morning, we opted for something short and sweet. We left early Saturday morning and made it just in time to meet my sister, Jessie, for lunch. She treated us to Hattie B’s. Their hot chicken deserves a blog post of it’s own. Y’all, it is incredible.
I think Baker was a fan too.



We could not check in to our hotel downtown until 3:00, so we stopped at a neighborhood park for some big swings and big smiles.


We moseyed around for a bit, and then left Baker Boy with Jessie for a slumber party.
Brian and I dashed back to the hotel to freshen up before our dinner reservations.
I even snuck in a picture. A little bump in a big city.
We were on the 22nd floor at The Sheraton.
The view of the city was incredible.
Dinner at The Southern did not disappoint.
The food was delicious, the ambience was magical, and my date was the most handsome date in the entire room.
On our way back to the hotel, we stopped on Broadway.
The music and atmosphere are electrifying!
On Sunday morning, we rescued my sister from an early-rising, apartment-destroying toddler.
The three of us walked down the street to Provence Bakery in Hillsboro Village.
It was delicious!

We have added Nashville to our list of cities we love.
It's especially special since my sister lives there.
A free babysitter, yummy food, birthday celebrations, and good music...score for a fabulous weekend!
Nashville, we will see you again very soon.
Jessie, consider this fair warning to toddler-proof your adorable apartment.


Friday, November 21, 2014

Fourteen Weeks

I think I have finally turned the first trimester corner! Y’all, I stayed up until 9:05 last night….that’s later than my sleepy eyes have seen in, well about fourteen weeks.

I am not sure if I will do weekly updates with this pregnancy. The thought of taking a picture, all by myself, to show off a burgeoning belly, seems a little outside of my comfort zone. Especially since I try to avoid pictures at all costs, and the ones I do find myself in, I try to stand as skinnily as possible. It’s a word. Honest. If you don’t know it, it means positioning oneself to hide muffin tops and love handles and double chins. Skinnily. Check the cover of People. They’re practicing it. And a little photoshop. And let’s not even talk about me even considering posting the number of pounds I’ve gained each week. That’s a big heck no!

What I do know is that I want to remember every single detail of this incredible experience.

What I’m eating: Halo’s. At least 6 a day. I cannot get enough. Anything savory and comforting. A lot of my clean eats are taking a backseat to creamy casseroles. I cried when a restaurant served the customer in front of me the last baked potato. It was a real tragedy. Waffles with peanut butter are my go to every single morning, although I am always tempted (and only sometimes give in to a second breakfast consisting of a McDonald’s Egg McMuffin or Bojangles butter biscuit). Earlier this week I ate the lunch I packed for school, only to eat a second lunch of turkey and dressing 45 minutes later. I am so happy Thanksgiving holidays coincide with pregnancy.

Big Brother Baker: If you ask Baker what’s in Mommy’s tummy, he sweetly rubs my belly and says, “bay bay.” I melt every single time. Sometimes he even pulls up my shirt to blow a bubble and make the “bay bay” laugh. I can’t even. Can I have another just like him?

Sleep: Love it. Can’t live without it. It’s interrupted several times with trips to the potty, but right now, it’s good stuff, and it comes easily.

Maternity Clothes: I am wearing maternity jeans today, and literally heard the “Hallelujah” chorus when I pulled them on. It’s happening early this time. It was a sweet relief when I finally succumbed to maternity jeans and quit trying to wage war with buttons. Many maternity pants still don’t fit, so I am wearing a lot of leggings and dresses. But with all of these extra meals I am sneaking in, I am making a case for them quick, fast, and in a hurry.

Size of Baby: This week, our baby is the size of a lemon. A lemon!!

Baby Names: We are very much undecided; although Brian thinks it's hilarious to call him or her Waylon. I'm not laughing.

Gender: We do not know, but we are dying to know!

What I Miss: Not a thing!

Best Moment of the Week: I am quite certain I felt little flutters this week. It may be early, but I think we have an active little squirmer on our hands.

In other news, I have pregnancy brain. It’s a thing. A real, medical condition.  Words that are a part of my daily vocabulary, words I have used in writing, words I may have even invented have vanished. Kaput. They are missing. And no amount of begging, conjuring, or pleading will bring them back to my brain. I’d write more about this, but I’ve already forgotten.

Happy Friday, Friends!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

forty-four acts of kindness to do with your kids

I cannot think of a better time of the year to love on those surrounding you than the days and weeks leading up to Thanksgiving and Christmas. Here is a list of forty-four ways your family can serve your community. What will begin as you blessing others will turn into a tremendous blessing for you.

1.      Pass out hand warmers to children playing in the park.

2.      Decorate your child’s principal or favorite teacher’s parking spot with chalk, balloons, notes, or signs.

3.      Go to Wal Mart. Greet the greeter and then treat the greeter to a special treat.

4.      Pass out Hugs and Kisses (the chocolate kind) at a nursing home.

5.      Decorate walkers and wheelchairs at a nursing home with ribbons and love.

6.      Read a story with a nursing home resident. 

7.      Take a Polaroid camera to the nursing home. Take pictures of precious memories and leave them with the residents.

8.      Help unload groceries into someone’s car.

9.      Buy a pack of greeting cards. Write letters to friends and family telling them why they are special to you.

10.   Organize an aisle in the shoe department.

11.   Give high fives to the employees in your favorite department store. Tell them you appreciate the work they do.

12.   Choose your favorite restaurant. Go through the drive though and pay for the next person’s meal.

13.   Tape single dollar bills to items in the dollar bin.

14.   Tape coins to vending machines.

15.   Take dog bones to your vet’s office.

16.   Place parking coins on windshields at the hospital.

17.   Purchase used books from the thrift store. Donate them to your doctor’s office for patients to read while they wait.  

18.   Go to your favorite ice cream shop. Ask the cashier what his or her favorite treat is. Buy it for them to have during their break.

19.   Offer to play with small children on the playground so their parents can rest.

20.   Cut coupons from the Sunday paper and mail or pass out to friends who use those items/shop those stores.

21.   Pass out water bottles to shoppers buying Christmas goodies.

22.   Set up a hot chocolate stand in your front yard. Brighten days with a warm chocolaty treat!

23.   Pass out candy canes on Black Friday. Everyone needs a little sweet on that crazy day!

24.   Offer to pump someone’s gas.

25.   Let someone go in front of you in line.

26.   Fill empty vases at the cemetery with flowers.

27.   Deliver goody baskets to the hospital.

28.   Write get well notes to hospital patients.

29.   Bake cookies to deliver to friends and family.

30.   Go to the local library. Place handwritten notes in your favorite books for others to find.

31.   Decorate bookmarks. Donate them to the children’s section of your library.

32.   Pick up trash at a local park.

33.   Chalk talk a sidewalk with holiday wishes or notes of encouragement.

34.   Pass out fancy pens to waiters/waitresses at your favorite restaurant.

35.   Hold the door for others.

36.   Buy flowers for your banker.

37.   Leave a note of encouragement on the changing table for someone else’s mommy. 

38.   An extra perk would be to also leave a Starbuck’s gift card.

39.   Pass out socks and gloves at the local soup kitchen. Baby it's cold outside!

40.   Tell someone why you are thankful for them.

41.   Take a neighbor homemade breakfast (or bread, or pie, or a cup of coffee, or a flower. It can even be store-bought. Just go).

42.   Refill a parking meter.

43.   Leave a surprise in your mailbox for the person who delivers your mail.

44.   The men and women who pick up trash must be frigid! Warm their hands and their hearts with a cup of cocoa.
“And the King will say, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”
Matthew 25:40
“By this, everyone will know you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
John 13:35

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

a little more about family member number four

I used to not like surprises.

I am a planner through and through. I plan grocery lists and weekly menus. I plan outfits and monthly budgets. I am a list making queen and have the sparkly, albeit slightly gaudy, crown to prove it.

Spontaneous is not a word that exists in my vocabulary.

A certain little event changed it all. It taught me that sometimes the biggest surprises are also the biggest blessings.

Our little surprise is due May 22, only eleven days after my favorite big brother turns 3.

I will be 13 weeks on Friday.

I have slacked off on blogging and baking and house cleaning. I forgot how completely exhausting growing a baby is. Most nights I have been getting in bed shortly after putting Baker to sleep. I offer no apologies for snoozing long before the clock strikes eight. I even fell asleep before the end of the Alabama versus LSU game last week. I know, I know, and I call myself a Bama fan. I am already celebrating a 2:30 kickoff this weekend.

Nausea and cravings have dictated the weirdest dinner menus. I have been known to have a hankering for something. Like a day consuming, brain warping, grocery trip inducing craving, only to cook it, put it on the table, serve it to my plate, and decide it is the most repulsively disgusting thing every to land on my dining room table.

Pregnancy is the most beautifully bizarre thing, and I am loving every minute.

Brian and I went for my 12 week visit last week. I indulged in a Diet Dr. Pepper prior to the appointment. I think a moment of silence is in order to acknowledge the blissful goodness that is a can of aspartame and dye and carbonated splendor. Sweet Jesus, it was heavenly. Baby liked it too. He or she wiggled and stretched and put on the most magnificent little show. Brian and I are still trying to throw an ultrasound machine into our Dave Ramsey budget, because waiting 4 weeks to see those teensy toesies wriggle in delight is just entirely too long. Y’all, there is nothing so spectacular. Yes, I think I quite love a good surprise.

For those of you who ask whether we’ll find out the gender, well I haven’t changed my name. I am still Jennifer Planning-Extraordinaire-List-Making-Queen Bell. We will most certainly find out whether we get to pull out all of that adorable blue smocked sweetness that adorned our Baker Boy, or get to stock a closet full of all things pink and precious. We will find out just in time for Christmas and I just cannot think of a better gift.

We have thrown a few names around. Nothing too seriously yet. Right now, it’s fun to whisper them aloud and dream of the name of another baby filling our home.

It’s hard to imagine falling so hard and so fast in love with someone whose face you’ve never seen. Whose hand you’ve never held. But I have. I am crazy in love with this little person who will share my name, my heart, and my home.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Party of Four!

We can't keep this exciting news a secret any longer!
We are thrilled to announce that Baby Bell #2 will be joining our family in May!

We are overwhelmed with love and gratitude for this incredible blessing!


Saturday, November 1, 2014

a week of tricks, a week of treats

This week has been one of those weeks I would like to pour into a nice, fancy bottle and tuck into a drawer amidst all of the other bottles carefully packaged and sealed with the most scrumptious of memories.
The ones that make you remember the exact glorious color of the leaves, the unmistakable, perfectly concocted smell of candy corn and sweaty two year old foreheads.
It was a week of late nights and sleepy mornings. Too much chocolate and not enough coffee. Squeezing in dinners just like we squeezed in one more hay ride at the festival's close.
We smiled a lot this week. We dressed silly. We played tricks and enjoyed treats.
Before the madness of the week began, we snuck outside to enjoy the beautiful day.
We even huddled up for a shameless selfie, because sometimes you need a picture to capture the love threatening to burst from all the seams.
My little hunter for his party at school.
Two seconds before this picture was taken, I realized my shirt was on inside out.
Just doing my part to make all you other mommas look good!
Baker and his trophy from his African Safari hunt.
Baker dressed in 50's garb for our church's Fall Festival.
Eat your heart out, Sandy and Rizzo.


This is the face of a boy who just put on TWO socks all by himself!
I couldn't have been more happy if I had unearthed the secret to folding fitting sheets. Those darn things are a booger to fold!
I am so proud of you, Baker Bell. So proud!
Needless to say, I pulled over, jerked him out of his carseat, and did a happy dance. It was the happiest dancing ever done on the side of the highway.

On Friday, Baker dressed up for school.
Being an Alabama football player was the obvious choice.
Roll Tide, Baker Boy!
Baker's Nana and DD surprised him for his Halloween party.
What a treat!
After a full week of tricks and treats, our little family of three slept soundly on Halloween night.

We enjoyed a kitchen floor picnic of chocolate chip waffles, because clearly we hadn't consumed enough sugar in the last seven days.
Somebody was not thrilled his waffles were topped with sugar free syrup.


Happy Halloween, and a very Happy November to you!